Unique military restorer in Grady County - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Unique military restorer in Grady County

Cairo- Russell Deese is one of five people in the nation who restores old military vehicles. But he's not in it for the money. Russell's Military Vehicles is a hobby turned business.

     For some people, a job is just, well, a job. But for Russell Deese, it's a passion. His is a business born out of love. He restores and repairs old military vehicles for collectors and museums. "We work on everything from a bicycle to motorcycles, to World War II Jeeps, to amphibious Jeeps, amphibious ducks," says Deese.

     Deese's love for Jeeps started when he was a kid. But he became a businessman after his work on a personal jeep spoke for itself. "Built the jeep, man wanted the jeep, I didn't want to sell the jeep. He offered more than it was worth. I sold the jeep," says Deese.

     A fully restored jeep costs up to $20,000. But it's not about the money for Deese, it's honoring the country. "Every one that finishes here, rolls out of this shop, it's just another piece of history, and a piece of Americana," he says.

     Deese says it's also about making friends. After all, military collectors are a tight-knit community. "If I'm tearing their Jeep down, we're getting personal. So I want to know their first name. And their wife's name too," he says.

     The Jeep was the primary vehicle in WWII and Korea. It was known as the "do anything, go anywhere vehicle." And Mister Deese proved that today during an off-road demonstration. "I see an old jeep dilapidated and rundown, I see a tired Jeep. But I see underneath that little thing a fireball," he says.

     Deese truly has it made. He says he isn't getting rich, but he says he couldn't possibly be more satisfied, especially when he sees his customers riding down the road. "That's my fringe benefit, to see them happy, thrilled, with the job that I did for them, is gratification for me."

     Some people look in Deese's front yard and see a pile of rust. However, he sees an empty canvas. "I look at a Jeep the way God looks at me, not what I am now, but what I can be," he says. And for him, that's a little piece of Heaven in Grady County.

     Most of Deese's customers are retired military personnel. Sometimes they leave him their old memorabilia when they pass away. Deese says he always donates the items to museums, and never sells them.

Posted by stephen.ryan@walb.com